Home of Hope celebrated National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week last week in honor of direct support professionals who provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our area.
Home of Hope, headquartered in Vinita, provides services throughout northeastern Oklahoma to more than 240 adults with disabilities with a staff of nearly 600, including 200 men and women with developmental disabilities and nearly 350 direct support professionals.
Direct support professionals (DSPs) assist individuals with a disability to lead a self-directed life and contribute to the community, assists with activities of daily living if needed, and encourages attitudes and behaviors that enhance community inclusion.
“Our direct support staff – the men and women who provide daily personal care in each of our 55 homes in five different communities and who work as job coaches in our full range of work settings for individuals with disabilities – these folks are truly the heart of everything we are able to do,” says Dr. Ralph Richardson, CEO at Home of Hope. “They are the ones out there making a difference, helping to make life not just bearable but enjoyable and meaningful for people who have disabilities that make going it alone impossible.”
The national direct support workforce is made up of over 3.6 million workers and the demand is expected to increase by 35% in the next 10 years. While the job can be very demanding, the rewards are great as evidenced by the following stories from a sampling of DSP staff at Home of Hope.
Stephen Bradley started his work life as a heavy equipment operator but an interest in healthcare and a special place in his heart for individuals with disabilities attracted him to his job. “It’s not really a job to me; it is a way of life. The clients are a joy to be around and no matter what is going on in their life, or in my life, they make my day brighter. I want to do my part to help the people I work with achieve their potential. It is amazing what I get to see and be a part of.”
Unlike Stephen, Kristen Black has always known her career path as her mother and father both work at Delaware County Friendship Homes (DCFH) in Jay. Kristen loves her job and often receives compliments from parents of the consumers she works with. “The best part of my job is knowing I make a difference in their lives. I enjoy how the little things, like helping with nails and hair, make them light up. I like going on outings in the community and helping with daily tasks like cooking and cleaning, knowing that everything learned is with the goal of helping them live more independently.”
DeShawn Ewing, who receives services in Jay, expresses the importance of direct support professionals in his life. “Heather (King) makes me feel good about myself and motivates me to do better.” Through his 4 years at DCFH DeShawn has made steady progress toward his goals moving up through the jobs in vocational from working in the recycling program and stocking the snack shop to counting money and working in the office and commissary. DeShawn also credits Shawna Foreman and her family for teaching him many things, especially how to be more patient. Delbert Foreman helped DeShawn become a member of the Fighting Peacocks softball team and he enjoys playing traditional Cherokee marbles with Delbert and Jacob.
A shining example of the dedication and motivation provided by direct support professionals is the story of Tiffany Haddock. Tiffany’s journey with DCFH began 4 years ago when she graduated from Grove High School and joined the DCFH vocational program as a consumer. Tiffany worked very hard and, with the inspiration from direct support professionals, obtained the skills and training to be a DSP herself. Tiffany joined the staff at DCFH as a job coach and receptionist almost 2 years ago. Tiffany says she was nervous at first but proud to have met her goal and gets great satisfaction from helping others. She says she learned a lot about doing her job well from the days when she was receiving services. Many consumers see Tiffany as a role model and follow her example of hard work. Tiffany leads by this example telling those she serves to work hard and do their best. She loves to teach and help people. Her favorite part of her job is seeing people smile. In her spare time Tiffany raises pigs and likes to square dance, teaching clients this talent as well.
Those interested in making a difference in a career as a direct support professional can contact Charlene Lee, Home of Hope Human Recruitment Specialist at 918-256-7825.